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New Web site

viniosity (592905) writes | more than 9 years ago

User Journal 1

Last week I launched a new web site to find, catalog, and promote the independent businesses in Washington, DC (my current residence) with the kind help of Eugenia Loli-Queru.Last week I launched a new web site to find, catalog, and promote the independent businesses in Washington, DC (my current residence) with the kind help of Eugenia Loli-Queru.

If you've seen the proliferation of chains in the US you'll immediately recognize that the identity of many towns and cities is in jeopardy. Who goes to Cleveland because they have a great Starbucks? Do you visit Chicago for the Pizza Hut? Of course not. The sad fact is that Anywhere, USA is a reality now. Small, indepedent companies are extinct in many places and on their way out in others. (A notable exception is SF which somehow manages to thrive.) Just try to find an independent grocery store and you'll see what I mean. But is there more at stake beside the landscape? Yes.

Sure, you can be a regular at Starbucks and develop a friendship with the barrista in the same way you might with the person who ran that nice diner. And, you say, the coffee at Starbucks is way better. True as that may be, ask yourself what happens when the only place to buy coffee is Starbucks, and another chain or two. Fierce competition you say? Possibly. Or maybe just a carving of the market and higher prices.

Then what happens when those 3 chains decide that coffee beans are too expensive and that they're going to substitute them with a genetically modified knock-off? You'll scream, you'll holler, but you'll have to accept because, you know what? Starbucks and that other chain may by then sell 95% of the coffee in America and what they dictate to the grower (or to Congress) could become the norm.

And let's not forget the producer of the food or product in question. Chains are fabulous distributors. They push products out to consumers in ways that the producer cannot hope to achieve. In this way, they are the focal point between the mass of producers and consumers (who unfortunatley will be screwed unless they too somehow band together). What you'll be left with is a few companies that produce and distribute products all cramming it down your throat at high margins.

The producers will fight it though. They'll consolidate to the point that if Walmart wants vacuums they won't be able to play lots of companies against each other. Yup, it'll be Hoover at Walmart and VacuumCo at Target. And you know how Hoover will cut their costs? You guessed it, they'll outsource the jobs to low cost countries. And if they don't? They'll get played like Vlasic and end up bankrupt.

But will consumers band together? To a degree, through the most that will do is slightly offset the massive spending by chains and big business. (Plus, don't forget that big companies also have organized like this.)

What consumers can do is vote. Your vote it the equivalent of chains and other big companies spending millions of dollars to influence a politician. Vote at the ballot box for politicans that represent your interests (not a conglomerates). Secondly, vote with your pocketbook. Every time you purchase something it says 'I like this and I'm willing to give some money so that it sticks around.' Don't believe it? Do you think there would be so many McDonalds if they weren't making lots of money? Sorry friend, money and advertising make the world go around now.

So, next time you have a choice try to pick the little guy. Not to be different - not to be anti-establishment; do it because they're worth keeping around even if they're not the cheapest. One day you may miss that diner in the midst of all those Taco Bells.

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1 comment

The Scary Future (2, Interesting)

IpalindromeI (515070) | more than 9 years ago | (#11504634)

I agree with your predictions, but I don't think there is a huge reason to try to stop it. If Starbucks stops using real coffee beans, and people don't like it, someone else will start using real coffee beans, and people will pay more to get what they want. I do think it would be disastrous if they got Congress to make it illegal to use real beans, and we should definitely try to keep politicians in office that represent our interests.

But in a purely consumer sense, I'm not going to stop shopping at Walmart, even though I realize more about their business practices than most who shop there. I'm not going to shop at an independent grocery store just because it's independent. If the prices are higher for the same quality stuff Walmart has, I'll be at Walmart. Obviously if the quality is higher elsewhere, I may go there for some things instead.

I'm not against companies outsourcing their work to lower cost countries, because that means less cost passed on to me. "What about the lost jobs?!" Well the jobs aren't lost, they've just moved. If people can't find work, they'll either change professions or move with the jobs. This concept is pretty old, and I'm surprised when people get upset about it. Many small businesses outsource things like hiring, legal matters, and advertising. They do it because it costs less than if they had to do it themselves. You may think it's different because the jobs "stay in the country," but it's not really that different.

Anyway, I'm not trying to get down on your site or the idea behind it. Even though I usually shop at chains for the low cost, I would like to find a similar listing for my area (Greenville, North Carolina). I enjoy checking out those types of businesses because for some things, they are generally nicer, of higher quality, or have better variety.
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